2011 Holiday Gift Guide | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

2011 Holiday Gift Guide 

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An eclectic selection, from rap votive candles to locally brewed beer to "grandpa pipes"
OF 17
Courtesy Meghan Garvey
It's never been easier to wax lyrical than with Meaghan Garvey's rap/R&B votive candles. Customizable with your choice of six performers, including Nicki Minaj, Ghostface Killah, and R. "But my body's tellin' me yeah" Kelly. $9 + S&H, etsy.com/shop/moneyworth.
Bryan Northup
When life sends you hailstones, try to sell the broken glass—that's what the Garfield Park Conservatory's doing to raise money after a storm ruined many of its windows in June. Their "Catching Hail" bowls, made by Bryan Northup, are beautiful, and they're a part of Chicago history. $100, 300 N. Central Park, 312-746-5100.
Last year you made shadow puppets and the nieces and nephews were nonplussed. Finally impress the children (or the feebleminded) with these thrifty Animal Hands tattoos. Add water and paste these animals, monsters, dragons, and robots on every body's favorite appendage. $7.95, Paper Source, 919 W. Armitage, 773-525-7300, paper-source.com.
Rosamund Lannin started making jewelry from old transit tokens about four years ago, inspired by a trip to Taiwan, where they still used them. She focuses on CTA tokens (which were accepted until 1999), but also sometimes uses exonumia from other transit systems—whatever she can find on eBay—punching holes in them and adding chains to make them into necklaces. $10-$20, etsy.com/people/WonderWheel.
Phineas X. Jones
Big Hugs imperial stout returns to Half Acre for its third year in a week or so (it's scheduled for release 12/16, but that could vary by a few days). It's worth buying for the bottle art alone—by Phineas X. Jones, who does all of Half Acre's designs—but the roasty, slightly charred-tasting brew inside ain't bad either, judging from past releases. Half Acre says this year's, brewed with Dark Matter coffee, weighs in at about 10 percent alcohol. $10.99 per 22-ounce bottle, Half Acre Brewery, 4257 N. Lincoln, 773-248-4038, halfacrebeer.com.
Buster Keaton's silent short films, shot between 1920 and 1923, "have a lunatic energy and surreal vision all their own," writes Reader film critic J.R. Jones. They provide "a striking glimpse of a cinematic genius as he masters his craft, develops his stoic screen persona, and toys with some of the themes that would later blossom in his features." Kino International collects them all, remastered in high-definition, in a three-disc box set. $21.99 from amazon.com.
Each of Kip Pasta's sculptures looks like a tiny, wooden city designed by a hyperambitious I.M. Pei. Recently on display in the window of the Whistler and now in an exhibit at Harold Washington Library Center through 12/31, the intricate wood-and-nail constructions can be custom made by the artist. Prices vary, but a 3-inch-by-4-inch-by-13-inch one costs around $300. outsidethegallery.com/otg.
Iconic Chicagoan Studs Terkel was a lot of things, not least of them a Pulitzer-winning historian, but he was first a radio man—and one with exceptionally fine taste in music. See for instance Studs Terkel's Weekly Almanac: Radio Programme, No. 4: Folk Music and Blues, a 1956 recording of visits to Terkel's show by legendary folksinger Pete Seeger and Chicago blues pioneer Big Bill Broonzy. CD $16.98, download $6.98, cassette $21.98, Smithsonian Folkways, folkways.si.edu.
The early work of Texas oddball Daniel Johnston, a prolific singer and songwriter whose struggles with mental illness were documented in the 2005 film The Devil and Daniel Johnston, is collected in a six-disc box set subtitled The Story of an Artist, which includes cassette-only albums made between 1980 and 1983, plus a 64-page book with Johnston's artwork and liner notes by music journalist Everett True. Six-CD set $84.95, six-LP set $119.95, MCA Store, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4000, mcachicagostore.org.
Consider a donation to the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation as an investment in (a) the means to grow your very own heirloom apple tree, which they'll send as a thank-you and (b) the foundation's work, which aims at a world in which more fruit trees grow. $30 donation, Fruit Tree Planting Foundation, ftpf.org.
For the two-wheel enthusiasts intent on roughing it through the Chicago death cold, Kozie Prery handmade winter cycling caps will help keep the heat in your head, where it belongs. Erin Rensink's locally produced caps are made from 100 percent recycled materials, designed to fit under helmets, and cover both the ears and neck. If you've stored the bike in the basement for winter, determined to keep frostbite off fingers and toes, the Etsy shop has summer cycling caps for sale too. $40, Kozie Prery, etsy.com/shop/KoziePrery.
Recognized at craft fairs and on the Internet's vast expanse of craft hawking as Iamhome, the husband-and-wife team of Sarah and Joseph Belknap sells home decor that ranges from chalkboard skulls to soap in the form of cinder blocks. But the 20-inch-by-20-inch colorful wall art they've labeled "fences" is what caught our eyes during this past Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market. Made from reclaimed oak, cedar, poplar, old-growth pine, and hand-pigmented cast plastic, each one-of-a-kind piece is named after a different Chicago street and will help give your bland white wall the character it so badly needs. $88, iamhome.us or iamhome.etsy.com.
Peter Holzhausen explains on his Etsy profile that he actually enjoys hearing his hand-crafted briar pipes being referred to as grandpa pipes. Makes sense to us. Just take a few puffs of aromatic tobacco, furrow your brow, and ponder. Now you look like you're ready to offer sage advice at any given time. They're a bit on the pricey side, sure, but Wood House Pipes are all made freehand, each with its own unique nuances, and every pipe is accompanied by a handmade linen pouch. $100-$150, etsy.com/shop/woodhousepipes.
It's the most wonderful time of the year: not Christmas, but the NBA season, of course. And with the residue of the lockout slowly disintegrating, we can now all pay tremendous amounts of money for Chicago Bulls tickets to gawk at outrageously athletic millionaires for the next six months. $35-$1,190 per ticket at face value, per 34 games, and $40-$950 per ticket for individual games, 312-455-4000, unitedcenter.com.
Leave it to the British to write one of the greatest entry points into Chicago literature. In the summer of 2009, literary journal Granta dedicated a whole issue to our city, featuring one of Nelson Algren's best stories, "The Lightless Room" (with an introduction by Don DeLillo), a dichotomous exploration of crime by Alex Kotlowitz, and a cover drawing by Chris Ware. granta.com/magazine/108. Price currently listed at (pounds) 8.70, which is around $13.60.
Chinatown shops were made for cheap gifts: at most places you can find IKEA-quality kitchenware at even lower prices. There are too many great shops to mention, but if you can only pick one it's probably a good idea to stop by Woks 'n' Things. The title couldn't be more blunt: top-notch woks and assorted cutlery and hardware. 2234 S. Wentworth, 312-842-0701.

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